Geographical region : great plains

This tribe lived in plains tipis

Language (group) : Algonquian-Wakashan


The Arapaho are an important Plains tribe of the great Algonquian family, closely associated with the Cheyenne for at least a century past.

They call themselves Iņunaina, about equivalent to 'our people.', but they were referred to as dog eaters (for the obvious reason) by other Native Americans.

The name by which they are commonly known is possibly from the Pawnee tirapihu or larapihu which means 'trader' and the Arapaho have been the best traders in the great plains.

The Sioux and Cheyenne call them " Blue-sky men " or "Cloud men."

According to the tradition of the Arapaho they were once a sedentary, agricultural people, living far to the northeast of their more recent habitat, apparently about the Red River Valley of northern Minnesota.

From there they moved southwest across the Missouri, nearly about the same time that the Cheyenne moved out from Minnesota.

But the real date or year when their permanent alliance was signed is uncertain.

They are thought to be most closely related to the Cheyenne and to the Blackfoot.

The Atsina afterward associated with the Siksika, appear to have separated from the parent tribe and moved off toward the north after their emergence into the plains.

The division into Northern and Southern Arapaho is largely geographic, originating within the last century, and made permanent by the placing of the two bands on different reservations.

Traditionally the Southern Arapaho were allied with the Cheyenne against the Pawnee.

The Northern Arapaho, in Wyoming, are considered the main or mother tribe and retain the sacred tribal articles, viz, a tubular pipe, one ear of corn, and a turtle figurine, all of stone.

Since they crossed the Missouri the drift of the Arapaho, as of the Cheyenne and Sioux, has been west and south, the Northern Arapaho making lodges on the edge of the mountains about the head of the North Platte, while the Southern Arapaho continued down toward the Arkansas.

About the year 1840 they made peace with the Sioux, Kiowa, and Comanche, but were always at war with the Shoshoni, Ute, and Pawnee until they were confined upon reservations, while generally maintaining a friendly attitude toward the whites.

By the treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867 the southern Arapaho led by chief Little Raven, together with the Southern Cheyenne, were placed upon a reservation in Oklahoma, which was thrown open to white settlement in 1892, the Indians at the same time receiving allotments in severalty, with the rights of American citizenship.

The Northern Arapaho were assigned to their present reservation on Wind River in Wyoming in 1876, after having made peace with their hereditary enemies, the Shoshoni, living upon the same reservation.

The Atsina division, usually regarded as a distinct tribe, is associated with the Assiniboin on Ft. Belknap reservation in Montana.

They numbered, respectively, 889, 859, and 535 in 1904, a total of 2,283, as against a total of 2,038 ten years earlier.

The population was only 692 people in 1924. In 1985 the Choncho-Agency (Cheyenne-Arapaho) did count 5.220 people for both tribes.

There are three major divisions the Atsina or Gros Ventre, who were allied with the Blackfoot and now live with the Assiniboin on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana; the Southern Arapaho, now living with the Cheyenne in Oklahoma; and the Northern Arapaho, who retain all of the sacred tribal stone articles and are considered by Native Americans to represent the parent group.

As a people the Arapaho are brave, but kindly and accommodating, and much given to ceremonial observances.

They always have been a very religious tribe.

The annual sun dance is their greatest tribal ceremony, and they were active propagators of the ghost-dance religion which did start in 1890.

In arts and home life, until within a few years past, they were a typical plains tribe.

They bury their dead in the ground, unlike the Cheyenne and Sioux, who deposit them upon scaffolds or on the surface of the ground in boxes.

They have the military organization common to most of the Plains tribes, and have no trace of the clan system.

Chief Yellow Calf was the last chief of the Arapaho tribe.